BOEING IS discussing a co-operative tie-up with Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) to offer the 767 tanker/transport multi-mission aircraft to the Japan Defence Agency (JDA).

The US manufacturer views Japan as the most likely launch customer for its proposed 767-300 tanker/transport derivative. To secure JDA funding, Boeing wants to enlist local industrial support for the programme.

KHI is keen to be involved in the tanker project,t o secure its position as the JDA's traditional supplier of large aircraft. The company is facing a shortfall in work, with licence manufacturing of the Lockheed Martin P-3C maritime-patrol aircraft now drawing to a close. Talks are at an initial stage, but are understood to focus on post-production modifications to the aircraft. Work would include the installation and integration of tanker equipment, such as a flying boom, extra tankage and plumbing, into the 767 at KHI's Gifu plant.

KHI's proposed participation would almost certainly be limited to aircraft for Japanese use, because of the country's constitutional ban on the weapons exports. Boeing would therefore retain the dual right to perform the work in the USA.

Japan's recently approved 1996-2000 mid-term defence plan includes funding for a tanker/transport study, but not for aircraft procurement. There is, however, provision in fiscal year 1998/9 for amendments to the five-year budget (Flight International, 3-9 January, P16).

Sources are confident that funding for one aircraft can be secured in FY1999/2000. The Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) ultimately has a requirement for up to eight tanker/transports.

Boeing faces competition from Airbus Industrie, with its proposed A310-300 multi-role tanker transport, and from McDonnell Douglas, with the planned convertible tanker variant of its C-17, which is also being offered as the C-X transport replacement for the JASDF's Kawasaki C-1s.

Source: Flight International